The 2013 Coachella could well be its last in Indio, say organizers, due to their opposition to a new events admissions tax initiative proposed by a city councilman there.
If the initiative makes it onto the November ballot, they warn, they would move both Coachella and the Stagecoach music festival out of Indio, and possibly out of the Coachella Valley entirely.
In that scenario, say Goldenvoice president Paul Tollett and Alex Haagen III, owner of the Indio Polo Club (where the festival is now held), they will build a new venue elsewhere.
“[W]e're going to take off 2014,” Tollett threatened to the Desert Sun, which covers Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. “2015 we'll be at a new facility outside of Indio.”
The measure, proposed by councilman Sam Torres, applies to 2014 and would require an extra five to ten percent tax on admissions fees to events with attendance above 2,500 people. Tollett estimates that would come down to about $36 per ticket for a festival that drew nearly half a million attendees over its two weekends in April.
Tollett says he has no plans to tack those fees onto ticket prices, so the cost to promoters would thus be in the millions. Ticket prices for 2013 have already jumped by $34 to a total of $349 for next year's festival; a portion of that increase, $2.33 per ticket, has been allocated specifically for the City of Indio.
Torres estimates that the proposed tax will amount to only about $18 extra per ticket, which would go toward balancing the city's books after recent budget cuts.
On June 6 the Indio City Council chose not to consider Torres' proposal, but the councilman is nonetheless pursuing a petition drive to get the measure on the ballot by Aug. 10, which Torres said would need around 2,700 signatures to move forward.
Event organizers say they're far from eager to move, but…
…are prepared to do so despite having signed a two-year agreement with Indio in 2011. According to the Desert Sun, a June 18 text message between Goldenvoice Vice President Skip Paige and Torres reveals that Goldenvoice has already been looking into purchasing property in surrounding areas, including the El Dorado Polo Club in neighboring La Quinta and 600 acres of land in Riverside County.
Tollett says the deals aren't finalized and won't confirm what the land's intended use would be. However, he does admit that the lack of a long-term agreement between the promoter and the city has forced Goldenvoice to take cautionary measures.
“We've spent money on options for new venues. I regret that, but I had to. There's too much uncertainty. In any other place, this festival would have had a long-term deal. We have it with the venues. With the city, it's been this year-to-year thing,” he said.
This isn't the first time festival organizers have butted heads with cities surrounding the Empire Polo Field. In October, the city of La Quinta threatened to delay Coachella and the approval of Goldenvoice's two-year contract with Indio amidst noise and environmental concerns.